Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Micro-banking costs an arm or a leg

The SOYMB blog has high-lighted the many misconceptions about the so-called benefits claimed by the proponents of micro-finance in combating poverty. As of December 2011, more than 34 million Bangladeshis had accessed microcredit since 1997, when it began collecting data. Of those 34 million, more than 26 million live under the poverty line - on less than $1.25 a day. There are currently 20.65 million borrowers in Bangladesh It is estimated the sector constitutes around 3% of GDP. Microcredit was hailed as a saviour for millions, aims to break the cycle of poverty by stimulating income-generating activities through providing collateral-free loans. But its repayment structure and the apparent inability of microfinance institutions to determine whether borrowers have multiple loans with other institutions rarely come under scrutiny.

A BBC report said in Bangladesh poor people are selling their organs as a last resort to repay their microcredit debts.

“Kalai, like many other villages in Bangladesh, appears a rural idyll at first sight. But several villagers here have resorted to selling organs to pay back microcredit loans that were meant to lift them out of poverty.”

 In an attempt to alleviate poverty, countless numbers take on debt with microcredit lenders, only to find themselves in a difficult situation when they are unable to repay the loan. Some have even turned to selling their organs as a last resort to repay the loans and escape the vicious cycle of poverty. Many are caught in a web of loans in which they first borrowed money from one NGO and, when unable to pay it off, they borrowed from other NGOs.

Mohammad Akhtar Alam, 33, bears a 15-inch scar on his stomach where he had a kidney removed. The organ removal is illegal in Bangladesh unless the organ is being given to a spouse or family member.  "I agreed to sell my kidney because I couldn't return the money to the NGOs. As we are poor and helpless, that is why we are bound to do this. I regret it," he says.

Mohammad Moqarram Hossen, is another victim. said "I took the decision to return the money I borrowed from NGOs"

Professor Monir Moniruzzaman from the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University has been researching the organ trade in Bangladesh for 12 years says "A lot of people's debt from NGOs has spiralled out of control. Because they cannot repay the loans, there is only one way for people to get out and that is to sell their kidney." He alleges that NGO officials, from organisations such as Grameen Bank and BRAC, among others, pressure people into repaying loans by sitting all day long at the defaulter's house, verbal harassment and threatening to file a police case. "The social and economic pressures from NGOs was unbearable so he decided to sell his kidney to pay off his loan."

First spotted here

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

In 2010, Dr Qazi Kholikuzzaman Ahmad, a Bangladeshi economist and chairman of a government body that monitors microfinance, described microcredit as a "death trap" for the poor, claiming that the ease with which people can receive credit under the system leads to irresponsible borrowing.

Milford Bateman, a consultant on economic development and the author of Why Doesn't Microfinance Work?. Bateman calls microcredit "one of the most damaging interventions of recent times".

"Microfinance simply does not work, and never has," he says. "One way of pretending that it does work, however, is to flag up a few successes, stories typically on the websites of the main microfinance institutions. The proposition typically put forward that we can see 'some benefit to some people' so that this must prove that 'microfinance works, though it is not a magic bullet' is absolute tosh. It is akin to Sands Casino highlighting its jackpot winners in order to make the related claim that 'gambling reduces poverty, though it is not a magic bullet, but we must keep sending as many of the poor as possible to our casinos to give them their opportunity.'"

The debate comes down to a question of the reliability of the numbers being touted by various microcredit schemes, he adds. "The impact of microfinance has always been negative," Bateman says, citing a 2011 Department for International Development-funded study that raised doubts over its impact. "But it is the political support for microfinance that is crucial to its emergence and survival in spite of all the evidence showing then and since that it does not work."